LIVESTOCK production is one of the largest sub-sectors of agriculture practised by farmers across the country.
With the winter season upon us, there are measures farmers must take to protect their livestock from the harsh weather conditions.
Agriculture expert Clive Masarakufa said there are management procedures which help reduce disease incidence and unnecessary loss of profits in animal husbandry.
“Cold conditions reduce the carrying capacity of veld grass so, supplementary feed, including urea and molasses, crop residues, winter maintenance blocks, is essential to maintain body condition score and support breeding cows and heifers at calving,” he said.
“Many farmers incorporate poultry litter as a protein source in supplementary feed and veld grass; however, they should be aware that litter can be a source of botulism infection in large and small ruminants.”
Masarakufa said there is need to vaccinate stock against botulism before the winter months even if litter is not fed to stock as phosphate deficiency in winter months can induce stock to eat bones lying on the veld which are a source of botulism infection.
“Poultry litter can also cause urinary bladder stones leading to urinary blockages and death,” he said.
“Cattle must not be fed more than one kg of litter per day and small stock not more than 200 g per day.
“Ruminants will consume browse on trees and bushes which often leads to the release of tannins by the browsed plants leading to gut irritation, sickness and death.”
Masarakufa said lack of green fibre in winter leads to a vitamin ADE3 deficiency which affects the immune system and leads to eye diseases such as keratitis and bone deficiencies.
“Supplementing all stock with injectable Vit ADE (Vitol ADE3) also improves response of stock to vaccines,” he said.
“Thin animals do not always respond fully to immunisations and in sand veld, selenium needs to be supplemented, especially in sheep, preferably using an injectable containing selenium and vitamin E.”
Masarakufa said winter feeding needs to be monitored as animals are hungry and efforts havve to be made to ensure smaller and weaker animals receive adequate feed, especially those about to calve down.
“Cows calving down must be separated and given extra feed to allow for increased milk requirements by the calf,” he said.
“It is essential to ensure that calves, lambs and kids consume adequate amounts of colostrum within six hours of birth.
“Colostrum is the only means by which immunity to vaccinations can be transferred to offspring.”
Lack of colostrum, he said, leads to poor growth, scours and bacterial infections and death.
“Farmers should not hesitate to dose weaker animals with colostrum manually drawn from the dam.”
Masarakufa said worms and fluke are parasites of hot wet weather and during winter in host animals rarely cause damage.
“Control of these parasites is based on treating stock with a long acting flukicide, such as Fluconix, which also controls wireworm and an anthelmintic, such as Intermectin, as we enter cooler autumn months,” he said.
“Thereafter, it is not necessary to deworm stock until warmer temperatures occur from September onwards.”
He said it is best to treat stock for fluke three times during summer — starting from the beginning, mid and end of summer.
“Ticks may, over winter, feed off the hosts depending on the tick species,” he said.
“It is important for stock owners to understand the life cycle of ticks and recognise the stage and species of ticks infesting cattle and small stock as a basis for deciding when to treat for tick infestation.
“The blue tick, which is easy to recognise by its blue grey colour, is a one host tick and newly hatched larvae feed on the cattle for about three weeks until the fully engorged adult female blue tick drops off to lay her eggs on the ground.”
Masarakufa said farmers should know the tick species which transmit redwater and gallsickness mostly during wet summer months.
“The blue tick often appears in June or July and may infest cattle into the spring and farmers need to watch for this. The tick is easy to recognise on cattle and small stock infesting the back, sides, dewlap, neck and upper legs.
“Larvae are very small and farmers must look carefully for these parasites when deciding when to dip.”
Brown ear ticks, he said, are well known to farmers and the life cycle is year long, with larvae and nymphs active in winter and adults in summer around January, February and March.
“The adults can cause severe damage to the ears, head, neck and areas under the tail, leading to skin damage and screw worm infestation. The adult tick also transmits Theileriosis causing high mortality in cattle.”
Masarakufa said tactical dipping during the winter months reduces larval and nymphal numbers thereby reducing challenges wrought by the adult brown ear tick reducing the risk of Theileriosis.